The Sport Of Paddling – An Overview
So what exactly is the sport of paddling? Well the answer is that paddling is actually a number of individual water sports rolled up into one fairly broad category.
Basically the sport of paddling involves propelling a small boat or raft with a single or double-bladed paddle, whether it’s a kayak, a canoe, an inflatable raft, a stand-up-paddleboard or even a Dragon Boat.
Paddling offers a wide array of experiences for the outdoor enthusiast. Whether you’re just out for a relaxing day on a calm lake or pond, or you’re looking for a new way to get out to that favorite fishing hole, or you’re an adrenaline junkie looking for thrills and excitement, the sport of paddling has all that and more. Paddling boats on the water has a long and storied history – from Eskimos using the first kayaks to hunt and travel the Arctic, to ancient peoples on all continents using dugout canoes to navigate lakes, rivers and even oceans in these crude but nimble craft
Canoes or Kayaks – What’s The Difference?
The sport of paddling has grown exponentially in the past twenty years, and with that growth has come a wide variety of new kayaks, canoes, and other paddlecraft.
And the lines between the two have blurred somewhat. In the past, canoes were distinguished as having open decks, while kayaks had the rider sitting in a “closed” cockpit with is legs and lower torso inside an enclosed deck. But now there are “sit on top” kayaks with open decks, and crossover canoes with enclosed decks like a kayak.
But generally speaking, most canoes are still recognizable as open boats, where the rider sits in a chair-like position and propels the boat by means of a single-bladed paddle. Canoes are usually wider than kayaks, and much harder to roll or capsize. Also in a canoe the rider and all of his or her gear is open to the elements, which can be a disadvantage in rough water or bad weather.
In contrast, a kayak — whether a whitewater or sea kayak — typically has a enclosed deck that encases the paddler and his or her gear in a watertight cocoon. Kayaks are usually much narrower than a canoe, and are therefore much easier to capsize, which requires the kayaker to be trained in how to perform and recover from an “eskimo roll” as it is known. This fact alone keeps many paddlers in canoes rather than facing the prospect of having their legs inside a kayak while their head and upper body are inverted beneath the water.
There are a variety of variations on these two types of boats, however. As mentioned earlier, there are “sit on top” and inflatable kayaks where the paddler is in an open decked boat and can just swim to the surface in case of a capsize. There are also “stand-up paddleboards” where the paddler stands up surfboard-style and paddles in that position. And there are rafts and Dragon Boats where the riders are in large open-decked boats as well.
The Various Types Of Paddling
There are almost as many types of paddling as there are boats to paddle in. There is sea kayaking, where the paddler traverses a section of the ocean, sometimes for long distances, usually along coastal zones, or on large lakes such as The Great Lakes in the US. There are whitewater kayakers and canoeists, who chase the thrills and excitement offered by the raging rapids of mountain rivers.
There are surf kayakers, who surf ocean swells or freestanding waves on rivers. There are kayak anglers, who enjoy fishing from their kayaks or canoes. There are competitive kayakers and canoeists who live for the thrill of racing and competing against other paddlers. And there are recreational paddlers who just want to get out on the water and have some fun on a warm summer day.
Whatever the goal, these outdoor sportsmen and women find fun and excitement paddling canoes and kayaks of all shapes and sizes. Many find their time on the water a wonderful escape from the stress and grind of daily life, as they feel their problems and worries melt away with every stroke of the paddle. It’s also great exercise, and a wonderful way to stay in shape.
Paddling is one of the few sports that is open to almost anyone, even people with disabilities. As long as you can climb on board and hold a paddle in your hand, the adventure of the water awaits you.
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